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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Bouquet for Amazon of Multi-Tasking at 60

    Louis Odion

    David Ricardo framed it as the law of diminishing returns. There is always a point of saturation. There comes a juncture where, to adapt the thesis of one of the most influential English economists of the nineteenth century, human productivity begins to decline on account of task overload.

    The breed the English nobleman has in mind could, however, not be said to include Yemi Olatunji-Bello, a professor of Physiology and the ninth vice chancellor of Lagos State University. With uncommon dexterity, she juggles not a few Herculean tasks simultaneously and has managed to make a success of all.

    One, her prodigious scholarly output in the field of Physiology has not in any way constrained her civic engagements as a tireless mobilizer and generous host of causes geared towards women empowerment. Nor distracted her from obligations as a virtuous wife, doting mother, committed mentor and an anointed pastor in God’s vineyard.

    As she clocks the Diamond jubilee (on April 23), hers is indeed a compelling story that should, therefore, inspire those still detained by the common assumption that the dizzying pace of the post-modernist world limits the career lady in other spheres.

    One writes with the insights of someone who has known and related closely with Professor Olatunji-Bello for more than thirty years. While her appointment as LASU vice chancellor in 2021 might have thrust her into national limelight, she had long made her mark in academic research with name recognition in learned journals with over 55 seminal publications, becoming a professor in 2007 and the first Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM).

    Two years later, it was inevitable that she would gain national recognition after delivering the 40th Inaugural Lecture of LASU entitled, “PHYSIOLOGY: Influence of Environmental Factors, Diet and Herbs”. Judging from the rave reviews it immediately elicited in the academic circuits, that singular outing undoubtedly affirmed her impeccable originality as a scholar.

    Henceforth, there was no more hiding place for the proverbial golden fish. International celebrities in her field like the Professor Russel Reiter Melatonin Research Team at Department of Cellular and Structural Biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, United States engaged her in collaborative work.

    The highly regarded Physiological Society of United Kingdom inducted her as a fellow. Ditto the Physiological Society of Nigeria (PSN). Followed by the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution mitigation (SEPTPOM).

    Following her assumption of the reins at LASU, it is a measure of her knack for industry, tenacity and excellence that the institution was able to scale rigorous hurdles to pass resource assessment by

    the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) in whopping twenty-one courses within two years. A feat unparalleled in the university’s 41 years of existence.

    But while the prodigious Professor may now bask in the glory of her success, not many would know that she almost quit early on. Given her brilliant resume, she was tempted many times with a mouth-watering offer outside the academia in the 90s. But her dad, Pa Meshack Ibidapo, constantly counseled her against seeking gratification in immediate material gain. The perceptive sage from Owo apparently saw what many didn’t see then. He lived to see his precocious daughter become Professor in 2007, but sadly not as LASU vice chancellor as he transited in 2018, few months before his 90th birthday.

    Comfortingly, her mum — Mama Jadesola, the jewel of the Onigbanjo family of Lagos Island — witnessed her inauguration in 2021 and also saw her being bestowed with the coveted National Productivity award a year before she too passed on at age 90.

    Overall, the energy Professor Olatunji-Bello exerts in scholarly pursuits is only equalled by a fierce devotion to family. She is never shy to openly acknowledge that whatever success she might have recorded in her professional life is due substantially to the unqualified support from the soulmate she met way back at University of Ibadan.

    Indeed, the story of how her path and that of her husband’s crossed in early 80s is the stuff of romance blockbuster. Dashing Tunji Bello (TB) was gunning for the Presidency of the UI Students Union Government (SUG) and took his campaign to the female hostel. Amid a stirring peroration during one such visit to the female dormitory, there was an eye-contact, then a chemistry and eventually marriage in 1989.

    With a smile, Professor Tunji-Bello never tires to recall how she helped improvise TB’s campaign song from a hit entitled, “Let’s Go Dancing …. Hoola-la-la”, by pop rave then named “Kool & the Gang”. The line was adapted to “Tunji Bello … Hoola-la-la”.

    Being married to a journalist surely comes with peculiar challenges, especially at a trying period when the country chaffed under military despotism and writing a critical piece could mean gulag or letter-bomb. Regardless, she always supported her husband.

    In the heat of the struggle against the annulment of June 12 in 1993, her husband became a target being one of MKO’s media strategists and Concord editors. For several weeks between June 23 and August 26, 1993 when IBB was “disgraced” out of power, TB had to constantly be on the move, sleeping in different hotels to beat security goons detailed to hunt down opposition.

    While journalism means constant travels and TB’s latter engagement in public service to Lagos State translated to returning home at odd hours often, the heavy burden of raising their children according to Godly values fell largely on the Professor.

    It is to her credit that they have all turned out to be successful, adorable and well-behaved today. The first, Temitope, is today a registered cardiologist in the United States. The second, Deji, is a young engineer with a Master’s degree. While the “baby of the house”, Lamide, is a lawyer based in the United Kingdom, having bagged her Master’s from London School of Economics.

    Daughters always inherit something from their mothers. Prof’s, inherited from her late mum, is a passion for evangelism. She did a programme in theology, to prepare her as the Zonal Pastor in charge of zone 9 of Lagos Province 1 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Apart from officiating the weekly service somewhere in Lekki, she runs a care clinic in the church to support the needy, counsel the traumatized and mentor the young ones.

    Again, it is a measure of her spirit of tolerance that after preaching the scriptures, she returns home to be with her Muslim husband. Her Christian faith will not stop her from ensuring that provisions are made for her husband’s fasting during Ramadan and the celebration of Sallah.

    By way of special appreciation, let it also be acknowledged now that her demonstrable policy of “peaceful co-existence” also benefited “OPEC” immensely over the decades, being the very fore-bearing spouse of its Life President, with KK (Comrade Kayode Komolafe) as Vice President.

    At the height of its corporate glory, not once did she ever obstruct the summits nor disrupt the smooth operations of “OPEC”. As the Secretary General of that restricted club, yours sincerely can affirm that her attitude has always been pacifist when such summits held to her knowledge or within her purview.

    Rather, she would intensify “prayers” to render OPEC’s oil blocks completely extinct, sooner than later. (Those still in the dark concerning “OPEC” are respectfully directed to consult those who know.)

    Here is wishing Prof happy birthday and many happy returns of the day in robust health and fine spirit.

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